It will take more than one Carolina Panthers defender to tame Seattle’s “beast.”
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has had some big runs during the playoffs, including a 67-yard touchdown against New Orleans four years ago that registered as a small earthquake on a nearby seismograph.
But the back known as “Beast Mode” has been relatively quiet in the past three meetings against the Panthers, who have used a gang-tackling mentality to keep Lynch mostly under wraps.
Carolina has limited Lynch to an average of 63 rushing yards per game in the three games, with an average gain of 3.7 yards per carry.
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“We’ve just been really good tackling against him more than anything else,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Thursday. “We all understand not one guy is going to bring him down. So we’ve emphasized gang-tackling and getting around him, getting two, three, four guys there.”
The Panthers will be missing one of their best run-stuffers in the divisional-round game Saturday. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei underwent surgery Wednesday after breaking a bone in his foot during practice this week.
Lotulelei’s absence will mean more reps for veterans Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards, who echoed Rivera’s comments on the key to slowing Lynch.
“He’s tough to bring down, usually not one guy brings him down,” Edwards said. “So getting lots of guys around the pile will be huge this week.”
Brown back in limited capacity: With temperatures below freezing Thursday, the Panthers practiced indoors at the Charlotte Convention Center. But wide receiver Philly Brown still showed up in shoulder pads.
Brown practiced for the first time since he injured his shoulder while diving for a pass in the end zone in last weekend’s wild-card victory over Arizona. Coaches and trainers wanted to see Brown in pads so they could have a better gauge of his range of motion.
“From my perspective, I thought he looked pretty good. We’ll see,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot more that (goes) into it. We’ll see how it goes. He had a good day, in terms of the work he was supposed to take.”
The biggest test will come during the Panthers’ walkthrough Friday in Seattle, where the team will evaluate how Brown’s shoulder responds to contact, Rivera said.
Brown, an undrafted free agent from Ohio State, has brought an element of speed to the Panthers’ receiving corps since he replaced Jason Avant as the No. 3 wideout after Avant was waived in November.
If Brown is unable to play Saturday against the Seahawks, Rivera said No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb is an option to replace him. Webb, who played receiver at Minnesota last season, has one catch for the Panthers – a 16-yarder at Philadelphia on Nov. 10.
Rivera also said there’s a chance the Panthers could sign former Jets wideout Stephen Hill from the practice squad. Hill, who’s been plagued by drops throughout his career, received a few first-team reps Thursday and was scheduled to make the trip to Seattle.
“He’s got really good speed and he’s one of those guys, I think if he has a full offseason with us going into OTAs, minicamp and then training camp, I think it really gives him an opportunity,” Rivera said. “He’s got some talent and physical skills.”
Going back in time: Cole, 34, the Panthers’ oldest player, will be facing one of his former teams. Cole was out of the league for two years after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll cut him before the 2011 season.
Cole, who will start in place of the injured Lotulelei, says he’s moved past his departure from Seattle.
“That has no bearing on lining up on the field against (center) Max Unger and (guards James) Carpenter and (J.R.) Sweezy,” Cole said. “Therefore, anything that happened logistics-wise over there has nothing to do with us having this opportunity right now.”
Secondary depth: Two former starters who have become special teams regulars – cornerback Melvin White and safety Thomas DeCoud – have been dealing with injuries this week. White, who rolled his ankle against Arizona, was listed as full participation Thursday, but DeCoud (hamstring) remains limited after missing the wild-card game.
Both players said they expect to play Saturday.
White had one of the biggest plays against the Cardinals when he stripped kickoff returner Ted Ginn, setting the Panthers up at the Arizona 4.
“It just shows you all three teams are important. Special teams is just as important as offense and defense,” said White, who is on four special-teams units.